Corsica is a French Mediterranean island situated about ninety kilometers (fifty-six miles) to the west of Italy and a hundred and seventy kilometers (a hundred and ten miles) to the south of France. About eleven kilometers (seven miles) south of Corsica lies the Italian island of Sardinia.

Two thirds of Corsica is covered by a mountain range. The island has an area of about eight thousand seven hundred square kilometers (three thousand three hundred and fifty square miles). It is about a hundred and eighty four kilometers (a hundred and fourteen miles) from north to south and eighty-three kilometers (fifty-two miles) from west to east. The highest point on the island is the top of Monte Cinto at two thousand seven hundred and six meters (eight thousand eight hundred and seventy-eight feet). Corsica's coastline is about one thousand kilometers or six hundred miles in length.

The island has a population of about three hundred thousand.

Although Corsica is part of France, officially being one of its regions, it has a degree of autonomy that French regions generally do not have. The island is divided into two departments with separate capitals. There is Upper Corsica which has Bastia as its capital, and Southern Corsica which has Ajaccio as its capital.

The French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was born in Ajaccio in 1769.

Corsica has been French since 1769, when France conquered it. However, because before that it was both at times independent (from 1755) and under the rule of the Italian republic of Genoa (from 1282), its culture is a mixture of French and Italian. The island has its own Corsican language which is officially recognized by the French government. The Corsican language is more similar to Italian than French.

Early in the history of civilization the island was ruled over by the Carthaginians, the ancient Greeks and the Etruscans. Then it became part of the Roman Empire.

With the collapse of the Roman Empire in the 6th century A.D. the island was occupied by the Vandals, the Ostrogoths, the Byzantines, the Lombards and the Saracens. Then the King of the Franks, Pepin the Short, who was the father of Charlemagne, took over the island and gave it to Pope Stephen II, who held it as part of Ravenna until Genoa took the island over.

The island had to continually defend itself from pirates from the North African coast.

When the French revolution broke out in 1789, the Corsican nationalist and resistance fighter Filippo Antonio Pasquale di Paoli returned to Corsica from Britain where he had gone into exile. He invited the British to come to Corsica and free the island from French rule. In 1794 they did that, and an Anglo-Corsican Kingdom was established, but when it looked as though the British would find themselves with the Spanish as well as the French arrayed against them, they withdrew from the island. This was in 1796. The French then took the island over again. The British briefly regained control in 1814 but quickly ceded it again to France.

During the Second World War the island was used by the American forces who established air bases on it.

The island has warm summers and cool winters and it can rain at any time of year, although there tends to be little rain in the summer months.

Being so mountainous, a lot of the island is uninhabited. People naturally tend predominantly to live in the coastal areas.

Corsica has a natural park area where animals and plant species are protected. It includes the Scandola Nature Reserve which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Two endangered species, the mouflon (Ovis aries musimon) and the Corsican red deer (Cervus elaphus corsicanus), live there.

Corsica's economy is largely dependent on tourism, particularly in the areas around Calvi in the north-west of the island and Porto-Vecchio and Bonifacio in the south of the island The island is also a significant exporter of food.

The island has a one-meter gauge railway that runs for a total of about two hundred and thirty-two kilometers (one hundred and forty-four miles). It goes from Ajaccio to Bastia, and there is a branch line that runs from Calvi to Ponte-Leccia. There used to be another line on the east coast but that got damaged during the Second World War and has never been repaired.

There is a nationalist movement on the island that calls for full independence from France, or at least for greater autonomy, but France resists these calls, and there is no great support on the island for full independence from France.

Things To See And Do In Corsica

Go and have a look around Porto Vechhio. It's sometimes called the 'St. Tropez of Corsica' and is a smart resort in a beautiful setting. For a slower, less 'glam' atmosphere, go round the historic Old Town area with its lovely old buildings.

Lie on a beach. The island has a lot of wonderful sandy beaches. If you want a bit more activity than just lying around, you can go snorkeling or scuba diving, or perhaps go kite surfing or wind surfing.

Go hiking in the Bavella Mountains. If that sounds too strenuous, just drive up into the mountains.

Go and have something to eat at one of the many excellent restaurants in Ajaccio. Then perhaps walk off your meal by wandering around the city and getting a real feel for it. Visit the market and the cathedral and the Palais Fesch Museum.

Stroll around the citadel (Haute Ville) in Bonifacio (Bunifaziu). Walk under the arches of the aqueducts. Walk up to the citadel from the marina, going up Montée du Rastello and Montée St-Roch until you get to the citadel's gateway with its 16th century drawbridge. Then go down the hundred and eight-seven steps of the Escalier du Roi d'Aragon that run down a cliff face. Visit the gothic Église Ste-Dominique. Take a boat trip out to the Grotte di Bonifacio.

Go to the Scandola Nature Reserve.

If you like jazz, Calvi has a jazz festival in June.

Walk the Mare e Monte Trail. It's divided up into ten stages and runs from Calinzana, a few kilometers from the Port of Calvi, to Cargese, about fifty kilometers north of Ajaccio.

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